Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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January 30, 2006

Goooooodbye Google

No more Google Ads. Since this wasn't precisely my main source of income, neither I nor Google are going to notice much of a hit to our respective bottom lines.

Still, seems like the right thing to do, and it's not likely even to cost me entry to the Lucrative China Market.

January 25, 2006

Electronic Subversive Follow-Up

At a time when Microsoft, Cisco, and Google seem to have electronically-jammed moral compasses, it's good to be able to report that Anonymizer, of the companies mentioned below, is actively working to get around the Great Firewall of China:

But it's difficult to question the honorable nature -- some might even say "nobility" -- of the work Anonymizer is doing with the U.S. government. Cottrell said that immediately after 9/11, for example, the company put a front end on the FBI's tips page on the Web. The idea was to make it possible to assure tipsters of their anonymity, and the effort yielded 25,000 tips within three months.

Yet the effort that's probably most worthy of that badge is Anonymizer's work in collaboration with Voice of America to enable people in China and Iran to access information on the Internet that their respective governments don't want them to see. Anonymizer sends e-mail blasts into both countries, and those messages include specially generated URLs that people can click on to anonymously get to sites that can't be accessed through in-country ISPs.

"We're punching holes in the Chinese firewall," Unrue said. China's government, Cottrell claimed, is trying to launch denial-of-service attacks against in retaliation.

January 24, 2006

The Compleat Electronic Subversive

This is a repeat of a post from last August. Because trackbacks and comments didn't survive the port to MT 3.2, I've been asked by the company to re-post it as an FYI for their user community.

As any Neal Stephenson fan knows, it's an arms race between the encryptors and the decryptors. Still, this looks like the kind of thing that any aspiring terrorist operative - or Chinese protest organizer - would want to have.

Stealthsurfer II is a little USB device that looks like one of those Jumpdrives, but acts as a shunt for all your Internet traffic. Even browsers with very small caches still write to disk, and those files are more or less permanent. Arthur Anderson should also have taken hammer to all of their Enron hard drives. The Stealthsurfer intercepts email, web browsing, and FTP traffic, and encrypts it using ES3. It's apparently versatile and easy to use.

Why would this be useful? Well, think of the number of intelligence coups we've had when we caught al-Qaeda guys parading around with their laptops. Using the Stealthsurfer, much of this content would never have hit the hard drive. Captured, they could either impersonate drug mule or just toss the little capsule away. Someone could use the Net for operational traffic, and if they weren't under surveillance, searching their laptop wouldn't do intelligence agents or federal prosecutors any good.

Another feature lets you spoof your IP address, making it seem as though your traffic is originating from a computer thousands of miles away. Handy little tool for the terrorist on the go.

It appears that the service reroutes your traffic through their servers, 128-bit encrypted, so the host website your accessing thinks that Anonymizer is the client. Anonymizer claims to cooperate with law enforcement, but if the transmitted information is already encrypted or hidden, they might never know their service was being used this way. And since they also claim they don't keep any of the traffic, the trail might well stop at their servers.

Now the tool does have limitations. Chinese dissidents or protest organizers wouldn't exactly be able to parade into an Internet cafe and cover their tracks. There's a login screen, a popup window, and some other give-aways. Also, the ChiComs are in the nasty little habit of blocking internet sites and monitoring traffic, so this kind of thing is likely to attract the attention of that little white van parked across the street.

So, take an electronic one-time pad that tell me where to look for my next instructions, a host site that has nothing but an innocuous-looking JPEG with the instructions embedded in it, a hand-held GPS for setting up remote drops and meetings. Add plausible deniability to my laptop and even my physical location, and I'd say we've got a little problem here, 99.

December 4, 2005

"Scoop" Lieberman

Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson was every Cold War Republican's favorite Democrat. Jackson managed to get the One Great Issue of the day - the struggle against the Soviets - right, while being a prominent member of the party that got it catastrophically wrong. It's primarily for this reason that Sen. Joseph Lieberman has been compared to him. Even as the names have changed (well, most of the names, anyway), and his party gets this war wrong, too, Sen. Lieberman, almost alone has been reliable on the war.

The problem is, Jackson't legacy was decidedly two-sided. His common sense seemed to stop at the water's edge, especially where oil was concerned. Jackson spent most of the 1970s helping to ensure gas lines, odd-even license plate days, and the election of Ronald Reagan. Jackson introduced the price-control legislation in 1973, and then in 1975, when President Ford tried to get it repealed, his response, according to David Frum in The 70s:

By proposing decontrol, Jackson said, Ford was "working hand in hand with the major oil companies to push the price of oil up and up and up."

And the New York Times reported that in April 1979, Scoop was there to oppose Jimmy Carter's(!) Nixon-in-China moment, when he finally phased out controls.

Turns out Joe Lieberman shares this - trait - with Jackson. Lieberman has co-sponsored no fewers than four windfall profits bills (SR 1631, S Amdt 451, S Amdt 2587, and S Amdt 2626), and one price control bill (S Amdt 2612, proposed by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, who ran on her business experience). (Hat Tip: George Will)

Lieberman has his eye closely on oil, and realizes that China and the US are liable to end up at war over it unless something is done. (What he doesn't seem to realize is that that's probably ok with China. They think they're playing the role of the US to our Japan circa 1940.) But he seems to think that the way to handle it is to let China sign what amount to very long-term futures deals, while removing exploration incentive for our own companies.

Lieberman's right on one Big Thing, but he's following his party's tradition a little too closely on another.

November 20, 2005

Friendly Persuasion

Welcome, Corner readers, and thanks to Andrew Stuttaford for the kind link.


China's formally unveiled the obligatory Cute Little Olympic Mascots for the 2008 Peking Olympics. They're called - seriously - the "Five Friendlies," and here they are:

No jokes about "huanhuan" being the temporary guest worker they brought in, only with his name misspelled. Frankly, given China's human rights regime, I'm surprised one of them isn't named "Sing-Sing."

The warm, fuzzy Leninists over at the Games also have little pictures of the Friendlies playing various Olympic sports:


Although to be honest, in the wrestling picture, HuanHuan looks more like he's smuggling JingJing across the border than like he's wrestling, and YingYing seems to be dodging a tear gas canister.

Anyway, not all the sports are represented yet, and I thought I'd help out with some designs for the demonstration sports the Chinese were planning on introducing in '08:


For those of you who don't know Mandarin, yes, those are the real traditional Chinese characters, brought to you by Babelfish.

And for those of you / without a sense of humor, yes, American copyright law does make exceptions for obvious cases of parody or satire. If these aren't obviously satirical enough for you, perhaps you need to rethink your political system.

UPDATE: The Skwib has another new demonstration sport being introduced. Harsh Mark, very harsh.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud